Posted by: Zombi | June 9, 2010

Day 6 Ganspette – Cambrai

The joyus sound of rain flicking the tent woke me for the second time in two days. Fortunately the tent had done it’s job again and everything was dry. Still quite tired I repacked my stuff and set off at the leasurly time of 9.40am.

1st stop of the day after about 40 minutes was in a small town, I forget the name, for a pain au chocolate and a can of coke. A little energy and enough untill lunch, plus I couldn’t stomach a lot more with quite a few miles ahead of me.

Food finished, I was quickly on the go again with the miles passing well, helped by having Frank Skinner doing his business in my ears. Well not literally of course, that would have been quite off putting, but metaphorically via his pod casts I have downloaded for the trip.

I had the plan in my head to try and break the back of the day before lunch and get past the half way point (around 40 miles). Unfortunately I had failed to remember, the majority of places in France close between 12 and 2 so sure enough, by 12:45, when I was starting to tire due to hunger, there was nowhere to eat. With little other option, I had to press on till 2 or hope I found somewhere open sooner. Fortunately it was the latter and I happened upon a catering caravan at around 1.30, where I was able to order the staple ham and cheese baguette. Nicely topped up I was able to press on to Cambrai.

Now anyone who has ever cycled on British roads will know that they are not exactly ‘shared’ very well. There is a real us and them mentality between a small, but unfortunately very visable, minority of drivers and everyone else who uses the road and isn’t in a car. Needless risks are taken on a daily basis for no real gain and yet peoples lives are put in danger with such little thought.

I had heard France was quite different but to say I was surprised is an understatement. Cars pass me as if I were another car. If there may not be space to pass they will wait the extra couple of seconds that the significant minority of Brits can’t. I had two incidents where people shouted at me out of cars and it took me a couple of seconds to realise they were treating me like you would expect professional riders in the tour to be welcomed. “allez, allez” shouted one guy with a wave, horns were pipped and a smiling face greeted me as I looked across to see if I had done something wrong or forgotten my shorts again! It was a surreal experiance from what I am used to on my commute to work where people will shout or throw things at you for being on their road (yes, every day there is one incident of some sort, inattention due to being on the phone is the common one). Anyway, enough moaning, like I said it is just the minority (oh, and just quickly to any of you moaning about cyclists, you don’t pay road tax either, it doesn’t exist, up keep of the roads comes out of council tax, I do have insurance (even though I don’t need to and would be exempt anyway, just like a Toyota prius for example) and I don’t jump red lights, ever!). ;0) – Can someone help me off this horse please…

As I approached Cambrai, my route took me down some very small roads. So small in fact that one turned in to a farm track, then a dirt track with rutted lanes where the tractor wheels had worn the earth away and a raised centre. Now being in Northern France, the weather is the same as we have. This meant that the track I was on ended up having large portions of soft mud which couldn’t always be avoided. This combined with the fact that I have had a little difficulty disengaging my right foot (the one I put down, I’m left footed) from my peddal over the last couple of days was a recipie fir disaster. Sure enough, the next pit of sludge I reached, the bike slipped, wheels spun and before I knew it my foot wasn’t moving to catch my fall. With all the grace of a baby elephant I pathetically flopped in to the verge, still attached to the bike. Now when something like this happens you are a mixture of embarrassment and anger and the natural reaction is to kick out at something. So there is was, lying in a grass verge, shouting trying to kick the bike but finding I’m STILL attached to the peddals. I must have looked like a derranged otter lying there flapping and lunging. Eventually I freed myself and lept up with the standard male look of “yes, everything is in order, I’m glad it works, it all went as planned”.

Muddied and humiliated, I arrived in Cambrai.

Today was the 1st bay that my route has not been planned I. With a specific campsite so when I arrived I still potentially had further to go to reach my accommodation for the night. With just short of 80 miles in my legs for the day this wasn’t exactly great news. Fortunately, when following signs for the tourist office I managed to pick up ones for a campsite. Not knowing how far it was I decided to follow them anyway and hope for the best. Fortunately, within a miles I had found it and was able to pitch my sopping wet tent. Again, like yesterday, the weather held off raining for long enough for the tent to dry, me to be showered, clothes washed and have everything back in the tent. It then started chucking it down!

Tomorrow is supposed to be the day I ride the route of stage four of this years Tour de France. At 95 miles, plus finding a campsite at the end in Reims, I am not sure if I will actually do it all in the day. The 80 miles today was tough enough and I still have around 800 miles to go!

Thanks again for reading and remember, any sponsorship is really going to a good cause so please go on to just giving and search for Ben Blyth and you will find me.

Ben, tired in France!

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